Boomkat Product Review:
One of the crankiest cogs in Manchester’s subterranean machine, Callum Higgins and John Powell-Jones’ Swaggerjack twist out their definitive magnum opus with Privilege; rendering the results of a month long residency for Samarbeta at Islington Mill, which they spent turning the bowels of the building into a resonant echo chamber where their clammy, burred guitar strokes, lower-case rustles and spiny electro-acoustic spectres could really take form.
Where their previous outings were presented on and perfectly suited to the tape format, they’ve really grasped the Privilege of working within such a unique recording space as ‘The Mill’, using canny microphone placement and a close knowledge of the space to coax out its accreted ghouls from its hundreds of years of history - from original use as a (doomed) mill, to its then-unprecedented fire-proofing, and post-modern use as an arts and music venue - and then really let them breathe thanks to Sam Weaver’s mastering and a minty vinyl cut which patently suits their subtly expanded sound.
The key to the allure of Privilege is the way they let their instruments converse with the space and vice-versa. Their simple gestures - half-lit guitar licks and piano board clangs - are allowed to ring out into the space with masterful, glacial discipline, deflecting off its uneven surfaces and foisty crannies and ricocheted into a primitive, plasmic dub miasmah across both sides; at once redolent of some jangling Jandek or a motion captured Derek Bailey performance as much as the elegant, angular punctuation of Korean Classical court music or even those deeply intoxicating Decimus volumes from a few years back, especially in the high-register, hyaline avian chirrups of the closing part.
This is properly liminal, outsider gear, and thoroughly conveys the sense of isolation and immersion that the pair went through to gain such eerie, unheimlich music, if you can even call it that. Cos it’s maybe better described in terms of EVP or paranormal phenomena? Whatever; it’s ace.